With appearance at Trump event, more questions arise about DA Zappala campaign's place in Democratic Party | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

With appearance at Trump event, more questions arise about DA Zappala campaign's place in Democratic Party

click to enlarge With appearance at Trump event, more questions arise about DA Zappala campaign's place in Democratic Party
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala
Last week, President Donald Trump was in Pittsburgh, and he performed as expected: He bragged about his accomplishments, told falsehoods, and trashed Democrats.

During a speech at the Shale Insight conference, Trump called area Democrats "anti-energy zealots" and even derided U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon) for not voting with Republicans (both things are easily proven false).

Despite this anti-Democrat rhetoric, the campaign manager of a well-known Democrat was present at the event. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala (D-Fox Chapel) is running for re-election this year and the election just a week away.

His son and campaign manager, Steve Zappala, attended the Trump event with his girlfriend Anissa Coury, who chairs the Young Republicans of Allegheny County. City Paper spotted Steve Zappala at the conference shortly after Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall) was boosting the state GOP plan for natural-gas drilling.

DA Zappala secured the Democratic Party endorsement in February and the nomination in May, and he also cross-filed as the GOP nominee too for the upcoming general election.

Steve Zappala's presence occurred even though Allegheny County Democratic Committee vice-chair State Rep. Austin Davis (D-McKeesport) criticized Trump coming to Pittsburgh and faulted the president’s “broken promises” to the region.

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee has also been canvassing for Zappala, as is typical for some Democratic nominees. But Zappala's campaign messaging and actions during the campaign, including meeting with Young Republican groups, have led some committee members to openly support his opponent.

Democratic committee members in Pittsburgh, Ross, and the South Hills told CP two weeks ago that they are skipping supporting Zappala because they feel his opponent Lisa Middleman, a progressive-minded independent. more aligns with their values.

When CP tweeted about Steve Zappala at the Shale Insight conference, he defended his attendance.

“#BREAKING, boyfriend and girlfriend actually enjoy each other’s company ... ” wrote Steve Zappala.

A Facebook post from Coury also shows photographs of Steve Zappala in very close to the stage before Trump gave his speech.

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee and the Zappala campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story.

Steve Zappala's attendance at a conference that also acted as a pseudo campaign rally for Trump doesn't necessarily mean he supports the president or his rhetoric, but it comes at a time of turmoil within the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

On Oct. 12, Allegheny County Democratic committee chair Eileen Kelly sent out an email to committee chairs reminding them that members can’t support non-Democrats, since that breaks the state party bylaws. The email warned that supporting non-Democrats could result in removal from the committee.

click to enlarge With appearance at Trump event, more questions arise about DA Zappala campaign's place in Democratic Party (3)
Oct. 24 email from Moon and Char Valley Democratic chair Sean McCurdy
Pennsylvania Democratic Party chair Nancy Patton Mills, a Moon Township resident, also has warned committee chairs and members to stop supporting non-Democrats. In an Oct. 24 email obtained by CP, Moon and Char Valley Democratic committee chair Sean McCurdy wrote that Mills called him to reiterate the state party bylaws that committee members and officers must support nominated Democrats.

He then asked members that were not supporting or actively working against nominated Democrats to "please resign so that you do not have to be removed." State Democratic Party bylaws require an investigation before members are removed.

Jim Burn, solicitor for the county Democratic committee, told CP after Kelly's email was sent out that failing to enforce the bylaws against committee members could undermine the structure of the party. He worried it could lead to "’Democrats for Trump’ support within committees.”

Photographs from an Allegheny County Democratic Committee tweet show Steve Zappala canvassing with Allegheny County Democratic Committee members in October, just four days before Steve Zappala attended the Pittsburgh conference where Trump spoke.
Ross Democratic Committee member and Allegheny County Council nominee Bethany Hallam has been vocally supporting Middleman. She says Steve Zappala’s presence at the Trump event just backs up her criticisms about the county Democratic committee’s actions against committee members.

“It’s hard for committee members to comprehend how we are not allowed to support a woman running as an Independent who has been a registered Democrat her entire life,” says Hallam. “Instead, we are forced to support the incumbent whose campaign staff is seen hanging out at a Trump rally and other Republican events, but are nowhere to be seen at numerous Democratic events and candidates’ forums.”

DA Zappala met with the Young Republicans in August, just a few days after missing a Democratic candidate event in McCandless. He eventually returned to meet the Democratic voters, but he has also refused to attend a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.